Mar 25, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: J.D. Vance is a new GOP money magnet

Photo of J.D. Vance and invitation to a Palm Beach fundraiser

J.D. Vance. Photo: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) was quietly the driving force behind fundraising that helped propel Bernie Moreno to a commanding win in Ohio's GOP Senate primary last week, officials involved in the race tell Axios.

Why it matters: GOP insiders say Vance, 39, who's on former President Trump's short list for vice president, is building a national profile that's turning heads among major donors.

Organizers say Vance, a freshman, was responsible for more than $1 million in donations to Buckeye Values, the super PAC backing Moreno.

  • That includes $500,000 raised in 24 hours to help fund a rally Trump held with Moreno three days before the primary. The PAC raised $2.8 million for the primary.

Behind the scenes: Vance worked the phones with big donors, teeing up PAC leaders to close the deals. "It became a running joke how many times we heard 'JD sent me' from donors both in Ohio and around the country," said Cliff Sims, who co-led Buckeye Values PAC.

Zoom in: Axios is told Vance helped facilitate a $93,400 donation to Moreno from Purple Good Government PAC, which is funded by Silicon Valley founder and investor David Sacks — a star of "The All-In Podcast." Sacks has become a bridge between Silicon Valley wealth and Republican politicians.

  • Vance also was influential with one of the heaviest hitters in politics — Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire founder and CEO of Blackstone Group who's a bellwether among top GOP donors. Schwarzman gave $375,000 to the Moreno super PAC.

What we're hearing: A longtime GOP insider told us Vance made a sophisticated pitch that didn't emphasize Trump's endorsement of Moreno. Instead, the senator painted Moreno as a self-made businessman with a great personal story who'd be the policy opposite of the incumbent, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

  • "It was very impressive," said the insider, who has worked with generations of national politicians. "He understood what they were interested in."

Perhaps most importantly, Vance was instrumental in delivering Trump's endorsement to Moreno.

  • Sources familiar with a meeting at Mar-a-Lago between Trump and Vance say the senator made the case that Frank LaRose, the early favorite, would fade. He finished third.
  • Trump's resulting endorsement swung the race toward Moreno.

Zoom out: Vance organized and flew in for an intimate fundraising dinner at Le Bilboquet in Palm Beach (invitation above) featuring Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle. Omeed Malik, a major financier who's among the backers of Tucker Carlson's budding network, was a co-chair.

  • The event also was backed by Dan Newlin of Florida, founder of one of the country's largest personal injury law firms, and a major Trump donor.
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